Please, please pinch me! Or maybe no, just don't pinch me! We have to be dreaming, so much has to be true! And why should we wish to wake up from such a great dream? So until we do , let's just pretend we are awake and aware of everything that happened over the last few hours.
You should have seen what hassle Kerstin went through before we started. As if the excitement of going on a holiday in England, especially when it is connected to Michael would already be enough to finish us off, Kerstin's mum was able to even increase the excitement. Only it has not been good excitement, because she fell suddenly ill, just one day before we set off! So Kerstin had to go through tasks like: getting the house-work done, doing the last ironing, doing all the packing (without the main packer!) and going to see little niece Laura who off course turned 3 this day! What a brilliant timing this girl does have... LOL though it's not her fault. During the last tour we have been on our way to the venue, when we phoned home and Bunny Kerstin was told, she might become an aunt each moment as sister-in-law Marion was in hospital having contractions. Laura usually still had three weeks to go then! Someone must have told her that Kerstin was not in the country, so she waited four more days. So she was born two days after we returned. Okay, some say, she wanted to wait for the public holiday! As now, she will never ever have to go to school or work on her birthday, lucky little girl!
Luckily poor ill mum felt better in the evening and brother agreed to get Kerstin to the airport! Weyhey, England here we come :-D. Two hours later and a nice bag control later (where a possible pocket knife turned out to be the buckle of a rucksack) we were hugging each other tightly at the luggage belts with some more excitement being up for us: We were not going to take the car this time! Nope, not even leaving the airport, at least not on soil. This time, we'd get to Newcastle, yep, by plane! Off to the Easyjet desks!
Hum.... This is strange! Firstly: the waiting lounges for the Easyjet flights are not as luxurious as the Air Berlin lounges. Well, who cares? Secondly: We stand there queuing to be asked, if we have children.. hum.... no, none that we know of at least ;-). Okay, then you have to wait some longer! Just to see that the other lady lets everyone pass through. And why on earth, could not they have announced this earlier? Then we get the safety instructions, but NOT one word about the life jackets, sob! I love that bit! Okay, they don't seem to expect us to crash into a lake! Optimistic people they are ;-).
Anyway, completely in time we were welcomed by our landlad y Pat and friend Stella, who drove us straight to the Telewest Arena. No! We are not pathetic enough to sit or even better stand there in the cold, waiting for Michael at 11 am! A bit of sanity has stayed with us, though you better not contact colleagues or family to discuss this matter ! ;-)
To try to keep our sanity a bit, we decided to do something else than just standing there in the cold like .. Michael Ball fans ;-). So Pat brought us to the Metro Centre, a huge shopping mall ! A beautiful enormous place, very, very warm (which explained, why Pat and Stella got rid of their jackets at the car, while we were shivering in our jackets at the car! ). What's really weird now: We thought all this Christmas stuff starts early in Germany, but we were so completely clueless. We don't have the lighting up so far and no big decorations. All you can find already are the Christmas sweets, but that's it! And then you end up in Christmas wonderland ! Feeling like a little child ren in a sweet-shop, when we got to a funfair INSIDE this shopping mall! Where were these places, when we were child ren ? Mind you, they'd possibly always been there, only we had been in the wrong country? Well we still are, but that's another story!
Back at the Telewest Arena, perfectly in time, around 3 pm.
Do you know how strange it feels when you sit in your car, close to the stage door and just don't get out because it's windy and it's just too cold and you think: Well you will see when he arrives anyway! Ridiculous, but at one point it felt so strange, that we really decided to get out of the car. Luckily we didn't know by then just how close we would have been to one of the biggest embarassments in the history of Michael Ball fandom!
How to explain without drawing a sketch? Let's try: So we are close to the gates that lead to the stage door. There is a big round space and between this and the car park of the venue there is a hedge with rows of spare seats placed in front which completely blocks the view on th e other drive that leads to the stage door.. We waited there, because Michael supposedly arrived from "our" road the last times! So we waited, despite having some other fans who were just standing waiting on the other side of the seats ...... when suddenly Julia went: "Is he there?" We ha d a look and the others are all standing there in a big bunch... but no.... "No, don't think so....." Moving a bit closer, Kerstin finally discovered Scott. And when Scott is there, Mi... Oh great god, yes, curly hair. Julia first discovering the person who generously gives autographs to each and everyone...... There he is: Ladies and Gentlemen: Mr. Michael Ball! Almost escaping the mad Germans! ;-) This is what we call detachment!
Detached, yeah! LOL, we really must have looked like it, when we did not do the "Chitty-after-seeing-JK Rowling-at-RAH-nearly-miss-Michael-dashing-across-Marlborough-Street-with-almost-NOT-regarding-the-traffic-detachment". So we walked over, slowly, detached, getting our cameras ready. Standing there, just admiring his presence! At which point Michael in the most lovely way discovered Stella's and Pat's presence, whom he just greeted and then tightly hugged! Sigh, still a way to go for us :-(.
Before he arrived, Pat and Stella asked us, if we ever got a photo alone with him. We never did. Julia and Michael, or just Michael and Kerstin, that's never been. Always the three of us! It always felt so strange to ask him for individual photos! Stella thought we should try to get two. Honestly , optimis m was not our virtue when it came to the thought of getting a photo during the tour! Vivid memories of last tour come up again: We were desperate for our first photo with Michael! We tried, but we were unlucky and even disappointed when we saw two girls who basically did the same concerts we did. They got at least three photos, when many others - like us - did not get one! Of course, that's life and the risk when you are on tour , but do you have to have your photo taken at each concert? W ell, we could discuss this forever. Sometimes you just hope for some more consideration, especially as Michael seems to get a more and more generous with his time!
One little miracle happened. Michael seemed to have taken photos with most people being there, talking to many, signing away, when he started towards the car again. Stop blindly admiring his presence and do something! For example: Go over and ask for a photo! Oooer now or never! Suddenly Kerstin just asked and moments later Michael, being Michael happily obliged. Two happy bunnies whose week in England couldn't have started better than this!
Several hours left before we have to get changed and back to the Arena. Pat and Stella did a "sightseeing tourette" and drove us through nightly (and beautiful!) Newcastle, so that we get a little impression of the town we are in as opposed to our usual England experience, which only leads us from hotel to stage door to venue and back to hotel. Also important for the image of the city as so far we had only seen a shopping mall and the Telewest Arena which will probably never make it into the top 50 list of Britain's Most Beautiful Venues, we are afraid...
Today's lessons: a) always check what - more precisely - WHO is standing behind a stack of old seats. And b) never let the look of the venue prejeduce you against the look of the city it's in. Newcastle really impressed us, especially the river Tyne and the spectacularly lit buildings and bridges. If you ever have the chance to get there, have a look around! It's well worth it!
The Telewest Arena is usually the home of the local Icehockey Team and there was no way of hiding this ! What a contrast to the glory of the London Palladium, to which we so happily used to see Michael. Oh, one more tip. If you ever decide to do your weekly shopping just before the concert and you feel uncertain if you shall buy frozen food: No problem! Do so, but be sure to take the bag with you into the arena. Once you place it on the floor it should stay frozen forever! (They don't remove the ice! They only cover it with a thin layer of wood! Not ideal for posh shoes with thin soles... But as a Michael Ball fan one gets used to feeling cold all the time. Stage dooring in winter, stage dooring in teh middle of the night, stage dooring in winds that feel like storms...)
Getting into the auditorium brought another surprise: Aisle seats! Hum... What's funny now : We never could get decent aisle seats, when we were interested in them. Now, after we decided to go rather for centre seats this does happen! What do you do, if you want to leave the risk of being trampled? Dash to the front yourself. Only: When does the dash start? That's when Gill and Maureen take their seats right behind us (Talk about fate!). The plan is made, they offer to give us a hint during the song, after which the dash happens! So, time enough tuck our stuff away.
Just before we are treated with Michael we have to enjoy their support act: The Magnets! It's our first tour with a support act, as Michael got rid of them before we had our first tour in 1999 (though for both of us it was just one concert - and not even the same one, but mind you, we did not even know each other until then!). For those of you, who don't know the Magnets really: They are kind of an a capella band. They don't use any instruments despite their voices! Two of them are obviously pretty good in imitating instruments like drums! These guys are great in what they are doing and obviously they must have been one of the btter support acts in Michael Ball history! No offense meant towards them, but I was rather happy when they finally went for their very last song, as that brought us much closer to Michael!
The new MB logo is visible on a screen behind the instruments on stage to greet us on entering the arena. Curiously we wait for the performance of the Magnets who were really good (thank god!), but still the interval of 20 minutes after their performance and Michael's seems to be far too long.excitement builds.and finally the musicians come on stage, the backing singers (Where is Mick? But Peter did a good job, too), lights are out , we get loads of fake mist and there they are, the first words of:
Oh hang on, Julia just wanted to tell you a bit about the concert, so I move over!
I was born to love you
Get on with your short life
As dreams go by ("From my first album titled, very originally, 'Michael Ball' LOL !" song dedicated to Mike Smith )
Thanks to the Magnets
- Just When (" From my album 'This Time .It's personal' as it is personal. It's about someone I love." Audience: Awww! Michael: "All of you!" Audience LOL)
My arms are strong
Boy from nowhere
"Now our new bit.."
I wish I were in love again (" I wondered where do you start telling a love story? At the end of the last one! ")
"Falling in love can happen at any time, at a pub, on a street.in a concert hall." Cheers from the audience . " Then you see someone and no matter what they do or say you are attracted to them. And when you are lucky, you get introduced!"
You had me from hello
"Yeah, its all very well feeling this but then you have to be honest about it. ARGH!! What if the other one doesn't feel the same?" Audience makes sounds of disbelief "It CAN happen.it HAS happened!!"
This guy's in love with you (audience sings along!)
"Aah, the relief when they look back at you and say they feel the same way, too. Then come the honeymoon period.
Time in a bottle
She makes my day (resolves into talk about "Then comes a time when you look at the person you care so much about and you realise, you don't really know them.")
You've changed - resolves into :
God give me strength (raw notes from CD aspirated in the stage version) -afterwards sits down on stairs to sing :
Didn't we - resolves back into :
I wish I were in love again (very powerful)
Michael goes off stage and "Me and my Shadow" is shown on a screen with the band
playing along. What a laugh! Fantastic video clip!
This is the moment
- Lift the wings (rubs face with towel) "It's hot in here, isn't it?" (No, it was rather cold actually! But then we didn't sit under spot lights but on ice!) "Well, I am anyway."
- Last night of the world
- Empty Chairs at empty tables (refers to Les Misérables as "the best musical ever written" also says "This song is timeless and poignant, especially when you look at the world we live in now." Little 'stars' illuminate the black background)
- Vaults of heaven (dash to the front after this one)
- Love changes everything intro resolves into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang / We Will Rock You medley
- ne step out of time ( "It's probably the last time I'll sing this song." [We thought he meant this whole tour.but he stopped singing the song after Newcastle!])
- Help Yourself (jacket stays on, lots of hip action though.and when he'd usually take the jacket off , he paused and said: "You're not getting fed up with this, do you? audience: NO!! "Me neither!!)
- From here to eternity
Michael says good night and leaves the stage to tumultuous applause. But no one thinks of leaving the arena, naturally. The well known LCE intro starts and he is back.
Love changes everything (lyrics are on the screen as Michael wants everyone to sing along, he even takes out his ear monitors, so he can hear us.brave man!)
"One more?" Screams from the audience count as a yes.
I wish you love (audience sings along this one, too)
This time it really is goodbye.what a night!
Hey, it's Kerstin again! A fabulous night it has been and certainly one of the best.... if not the best concert I have ever seen of him. The "Love Story" section is just brilliant. What did someone say? "The concert brings the album to live!" Yes it does!
As I said earlier. Julia and me decided to do the dash to the stage for the first time in what seems to be ages. I think we have not done it since 2000 actually! I got the tip on the shoulder during Vaults of Heaven, which was lovely to hear live for the first time! So we had to get our things sorted out. A real pity seeing this was the last time he seemed to have done "Vaults of Heaven" in front of a live audience! We waited for the start of the dash and had our run as well. We ended up at the very front (first time ever) slightly to the right hand side! My camera was safely under my seat and for the first time I could remember I completely just enjoyed the party bit!
We were getting hotter and hotter, while Michael was doing our dances in front of us, while my feet kept getting colder and colder. Fascinating idea for a concert actually. How keep a constant body temperature on Michael Ball fans during the concert? They will heaten up anyway during the run, so you have to get them a bit colder. No problem, just put them on an icehockey field, but a bit, but not too much of wooden floor on it and there you have the base of the audience. Their bodies will be hot, their feet will be ice-cold, and if you calculate the average, you will come to a respectable body temperature, despite fever!
One of our own special highlights during the concert had to be ..... no doubt .... "One Step out of time"! You know that very special hip movement that Michael uses to do during "One Step"? Of course you know ;-). We stood there, eagerly anticipating this bit (We are only doing all of these trips and taking tons of photos because we adore his voice so much! No other reason!). We had no clue, he woudl be coming to a stop directly in front of us, directly above us! We could not believe that would happen until it finally happened! Great god a cold shower is being called for!!!!! It was especially brilliant afterwards, when we realised in Blackpool that this very concert might really have been his very last time he had done "One Step". I wonder, if he really wants to get rid of "One Step" and the whole Eurovisioin saga.
They say the concert lasts around 1:40, I don't know actually! If you ask me how soon the evening was over or how long Michael seemed to have been on stage. I daresay I keep wondering, if he had really been on for longer than The Magnets. It seemed to be over so soon!
After the concert we bought our programmes (gosh is not that detachment? ;-) Harhar, at least I did not write how much we twisted our necks before the show, just because the guy in front of us kept flipping through his brochure!). The photos in there are brilliant and I think it's the most beautiful souvenir brochure that ever accompanied a Michael Ball tour! Just when we got our programmes, I saw several huge (and I mean HUGE!) posters lying at the side of the merchandise stand. Naive me, went over to ask how much they were sold for and that girl just told me: These are not for sale, but promotional! So I asked politely, if I can have one. She asked her boss and allowed me to have one :-D. The only problem was: How to get that big thingy: 1st to the car without being damaged and 2nd: How to get it into the car? That thing was almost as broad as the car! Could only have been very few inches missing!
We managed just in time to get a bit further down the road Michael was supposed to leave. We did not have to wait for much longer, as the coach MIchael was now leaving in pulled out of the gated area and slowly drove along the road! Sorry I have to complain again, but I hate the behaviour of some of the fans there! Michael stood there at the open window, was shaking hands and saying bye to many, many people, when several of the people who were directly waiting at the gates just dashed down the road alongside the coach hardly giving any of the fans, that were waiting there a chance to say bye! Why is one hand-shake not enough? It's just a bit saddening.
Anyway, we had our fair share of Michael and were prepared to leave Newcastle on a high! Blackpool, here we come!......